A party’s not a party without a picadera – I may have that printed on a t-shirt, seriously — especially not without Empanaditas and Pastelitos (Savory Turnovers).
My experience with picadera in the DR is that you have to be pretty forceful to get any. If it’s a table laid out with food, you want to elbow your way in there, because, don’t be fooled, it’s not food that’s going to linger around all night. It’s a one-time deal and like runners at the start –line, it’s a mad dash once the party giver has given the signal that the eating may begin. It may even represent the end of the party, because once the food is gone, what’s the point in hanging around? Get in while the getting is good. And then get out.
There is low-budget picadera and high-budget picadera. Crackers and cheese on the low-end, with huge wedges of salami. High-budget picadera I have less experience with, but we went to a lavish wedding once where the buffet was tantalizing (shrimp, calamari, albondigas….) and yet not a chair to be found.
Ingenious tactic, no?
I’m sure less food was consumed because of it, and I have never forgotten the pincho de pollo (brochette) that was left uneaten because, who can eat a pincho de pollo standing up with your plate in your hands? In a manner befitting an elegant wedding, that is.
The year I threw my most excellent Christmas party, my picadera table was a sight to behold. I did my groceries in Santiago (God bless you, Supermercado Nacional) and, apparently, had money to burn. Many different cheeses and none of them made by Rica, if you know what I mean. It was a great party, because where there is food aplenty it’s hard not to be happy. The only thing that did not go over so well was the smoked salmon – pieces of which I saw strewn all over the neighbor’s roof for days afterwards.
Jill, a member of our original team (where we knew her as Aunt Jane), and contributor to our book, is Canadian, mom to two Canadian-Dominican boys and resided in the Dominican Republic for several years.
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 bell pepper , diced
- 1 large tomato , seeded and diced
- 1/2 cup of sweet corn , boiled (1 small can)
- 1/2 cup of green peas , boiled (1 small can)
- 1 small carrot , boiled, peeled and diced
- 1 small potato , boiled, peeled and diced
- 1 teaspoon of salt , or to taste
- 1 small red onion , diced
- 1 clove of garlic , crushed
- 1/4 teaspoon of pepper , or to taste
- 1 tablespoon of hot sauce , or to taste
- 1 lb [0.45 kg] of chicken breasts
- 1 tablespoon of oil
- 2 sprigs of cilantro chopped finely
- 1/2 cup of tomato sauce
- 1 small red onion , chopped
- 1 clove of garlic , crushed
- 1 green pepper , diced
- 2 teaspoons of salt , or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon of pepper , or to taste
- 1 teaspoon of orégano
- 1/2 lb of Gouda cheese , grated coarsely
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour , plus extra for working the dough
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
- 3 tablespoons of cold water
- 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil (canola, corn or soy) for adding to the dough
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 egg white (to seal edges)
- 2 cups of vegetable oil (canola, corn or soy) for frying
Heat the oil over low heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook and stir until the onions become translucent. Stir in bell pepper, tomato, peas, carrot, potato and corn. Cover and simmer over low heat until the pepper is cooked (3-5 mins).
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the hot sauce.
Cool to room temperature and reserve.
Boil the chicken in two cups of water, adding a teaspoon of salt, pepper, and a pinch of oregano to the water.
When the chicken is tender remove from the fire and cool to room temperature.
Shred the chicken very finely.
In a skillet heat oil over low heat, add onion, garlic and bell pepper. Cook and stir until onions become translucent.
Add coriander and tomato sauce and mix in. Mix in chicken and simmer over very low heat until all the liquid has evaporated.
Season with salt to taste. Set aside.
Mix baking baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour, add water and oil, and mix well.
Mix everything with your hands on a lightly-floured surface until everything is well mixed, don't knead the dough (add some flour to the dough is it is too sticky, a bit of water if it is too dry).
Let dough rest for ten minutes covered in plastic film.
On a lightly-floured surface roll out the dough.
To make empanadas: Cut out circles 4" [10 cm] in diameter. Paint the inside with egg white, place a tablespoon of the chicken filling in the center of each circle, double over in a semi-circle and seal the border pressing it with a fork.
To make pastelitos: Cut out circles of about 2.5" [6.5 cm] in diameter. Paint the inside with egg white, place a tablespoon of the chicken filling in the center of each circle, cover with another circle and seal the border pressing it with a fork.
Heat oil over medium heat in a 1 qt [1lt] pot. Deep fry the pasties heat until they are golden brown on each side.
Rest on a paper towel to drain excess oil before serving.
Empanadas are not unique to the Dominican Republic, in fact they can be found in pretty much every Spanish-speaking country in one shape or form and in a variety of sizes. Each Spanish-speaking country has adapted this recipe to their own tastes and favorite ingredients.
In the DR at least it is a basic component of the party platter, a quick late dinner after a night on the town and popular street fare. The difference between empanaditas and pastelitos is merely cosmetic. Pastelitos are round, whereas empanadas are half-moon shaped.
Another great thing about it is that it is pretty adaptable: Do you have vegan friends? Go with a vegan filling (like the one in the recipe), beef lovers? Then a beef filling should be your choice (borrow it from this recipe. Want something more "exotic"? How about a combination of pork and apple? Borrow it from this recipe. You can even fill them with fruits or jams and serve them as desserts. Cheese is another popular choice, gouda or emmental are great choices, but for a more Dominican touch you can make them with crumbled queso de freír (or halloumi if you don't find queso de freír).
As for dough, this is the traditional one, which is deep fried. If you are looking for an egg-free alternative, the dough for yaniqueques works well too. For a baked vegan version, try this one. Gluten-free? We didn't forget you! Try cativías, a different type of empanadas made with yuca (cassava) dough.
You will almost certainly have filling leftover. Save and add to your next soup.